Echo Room. Thorvaldsen, Willumsen, Jorn, and their Collections

J. F. Willumsen’s Museum, June 10th – December 30th 2018

Echo Room Willumsens Museum 2018 Thorvaldsen, Willumsen, Jorn
Ubekendt kunster (tilskrevet Tizian eller hans skole, f.eks. van Dyck af J. F. Willumsen). Tiden og den lille dreng, datering ukendt. Olie på lærred, 67,5 x 80cm. J.F. Willumsens Museum. J.F

Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844), J. F. Willumsen (1863-1958), and Asger Jorn (1914-1973) were all art collectors as well as artists. They created extensive collections of art ranging from Northern Europe to East Asia, which entered into a dialogue with the past and its echoes in the artistic landscape of their own lifetimes. Thorvaldsen’s Museum, J.F. Willumsen’s Museum, and Museum Jorn now form the physical echo rooms in which their collections resonate today.

In ECHO ROOM elements of Thorvaldsen’s, Willumsen’s and Jorn’s copious, international art collections are connected for the first time in an ambitious research-based exhibition occupying the entire J.F. Willumsen’s Museum in Frederikssund. The exhibition is based on the associative and investigative visual logic that drove the collectors, and is curated by artist Christian Vind in collaboration with Anne Gregersen, curator at the J.F. Willumsen Museum and postdoc at the University of Copenhagen.  

Common Characteristics

The exhibition is accompanied by English and Danish editions of the book Echo Room: Thorvaldsen, Willumsen, Jorn, and their Collections published by Hatje Cantz (release date May 31st).

Thorvaldsen, Willumsen, and Jorn represent different periods and views of art, but the collecting activities of all three have common characteristics that are also shared by the collections of artists in general. The private collections of the artists are not based on traditional art-historical criteria, representing instead a different and more personal approach to art. As the exhibition reveals, there are close and surprising links between their collections and their own artistic practice.

Art of the Past is Important for the Present

The collections offer alternative views of which images and objects are important. Thorvaldsen collected German and Danish contemporary romantic painting, the kitsch motifs of which provide a striking contrast to his own neoclassical sculptures. Willumsen believed the art of the past to be important for the present, buying fake Leonardos and Rembrandts, as well as works ‘restored’ with obvious additions in his own style of painting. Jorn called his ‘museum things’ mementos, and contributed to art history by showing that the Surrealist and spontaneous abstract art of his own era was rooted in the symbolism of the 1800s.

Based on the collections of these three artists, all of which are integrated in the museums that bear their names, the exhibition ECHO ROOM – THORVALDSEN, WILLUMSEN, JORN, AND THEIR COLLECTIONS zooms in on the phenomenon of the artist’s collection, exploring the artist as collector, curator, conservator, art historian, and museum builder.

Max Ernst. La mer et le soleil (Havet og solen), 1926
El Greco The adoration of the Shepherds. Part of Willumsen's private Art Collection

For their indispensable financial support for the exhibition and the research-based anthology we sincerely thank the following foundations: the New Carlsberg Foundation, the Augustinus Foundation,  the June 15th. Foundation, the Krogager Foundation, the Knud Højgaard Foundation, the Aage & Johanne Louis-Hansens Foundation, the Oda & Hans Svenningsen Foundation, the Ernst & Vibeke Husman Foundation, the Beckett Foundation, the Arne V. Schleschs Foundation and the L. Zeuthen Memorial Trust.

Many thanks to our collaborators MTAB Fine Art Shipping, Country Manager, Jørgen Jul Jensen, and Niels Poulsen, Proventus Grafisk.